DERBY EVENING TELEGRAPH REPORT
STAGS TEST RAMS BEFORE DELUGE
Derby Evening Telegraph, 31 July 2002
Torrential rain forced Derby County's pre-season friendly against Mansfield Town to be abandoned after 43 minutes last night.
The downpour left the lush green Field Mill pitch unplayable and the referee had no option but to call a halt to proceedings.
Standing water, particularly down the flanks, prevented the ball from rolling freely and made conditions dangerous for the players. With the new season less than two weeks away, there was no need to take unnecessary risks.
It was raining well before the start of the match but the opening half hour had the makings of a competitive, interesting affair.
Mansfield, with a number of pre-season games already under their belt, looked sharp and gave the Rams much more to think about than Scunthorpe United had managed to do last Friday.
But the Rams also had their moments.
Branko Strupar, dropping off Mansfield's backline, used the ball intelligently over various distances, Malcolm Christie was troubling defenders with his movement and running, while Adam Bolder was making forceful forward runs from midfield.
But the rain became heavier and the standing water more prominent, and the game was brought to an early close.
Christie had recovered from a shin injury and started up front alongside Strupar, with Fabrizio Ravanelli on the bench.
Bolder partnered Brian O'Neil in the centre of midfield, while Steve Elliott started in the centre of defence.
Adam Murray, who helped Mansfield to promotion from Division Three last season during his loan spell, was another of the Rams' substitutes.
Having won comfortably in their first public friendly at Scunthorpe, the Mansfield game was another opportunity to further improve the physical condition of the Rams players and give them another feel of the ball in match conditions.
Strupar and Christie were on target with early shots, which Mansfield goalkeeper Kevin Pilkington dealt with comfortably, before Strupar released Bolder with a fine pass but his lofted effort was tipped away for a corner by Pilkington.
Mansfield were using the saturated turf to fizz the ball about and clever passes from the experienced Scott Sellars and Derby-born midfield player Lee Williamson stretched the Rams' defence.
O'Neil produced a timely sliding tackle on the edge of his own area to stop one Mansfield attack and, when Bobby Hassell crossed from the right, the unmarked Iysedon Christie saw his volley blocked by Andy Oakes.
More good work by Strupar sent Lee Morris in down the left and his deep cross found Francois Grenet, whose volley was hacked clear before the Rams' best chance came after 26 minutes.
The architect was once again Strupar. The Belgian international struck the pass of what was to be a short night and Bolder took the ball wide of Pilkington but, from a testing angle, he struck the foot of the post rather than the net.
Christie, who had looked eager and energetic, pulled a shot wide before Strupar went close.
Grenet, playing on the right of midfield again, sent in a skidding low cross and Strupar's near-post run and shot forced a good save from Pilkington, who did well to hold the ball in very difficult conditions.
Williamson's willingness to accept possession in most areas and move the ball on quickly kept Mansfield ticking over ,while the alert Sellars was always looking to open up the Rams' defence. Quick-thinking has always been a feature of his game during his long career.
Those two, along with the strength of Andy White, provided a useful test for the Rams' central defensive pairing of Chris Riggott and Elliott.
But it was the unpredictable English weather that proved the winner.
From what was a gloriously sunny evening in Scunthorpe to almost monsoon conditions of Mansfield ... talk about extremes.
Not many, if any, August pre-season games can have been abandoned due to a waterlogged pitch.
RAMS FOILED BY TORRENT
Derby Evening Telegraph, 31 July 2002
Derby County captain Warren Barton said he had never experienced conditions like those that forced the abandonment of last night's pre-season game at Mansfield Town.
He thought the Rams were being given a valuable pre-season workout at Field Mill until torrential rain left referee Steve Baines with no choice but to end the game in the 43rd minute.
"It was a shame because it was a good run-out for us," said Barton. "Mansfield had played five games before meeting us and it showed, they looked very sharp.
"But it became impossible to play. There was a lot of surface water and the ball just wasn't rolling.
"The referee looked at both benches to check and took us off early and it was the right decision.
"I feel sorry for the fans who came along but nobody wants anyone to get injured and it was sensible to end it.
"I have never seen anything like it, even when I was at Newcastle United and playing in Thailand and Singapore in pre-season friendlies when they had monsoons.
"It just shows the extremes of the English weather - on Monday you are sunbathing and then on Tuesday the rain comes down like that."
Referee Mr Baines from Chesterfield said it was an easy decision to make.
"After about 10 minutes I started to get worried," said the 37-year-old. "In the end there was just too much surface water and even 10 minutes after we came off it was not shifting.
"The safety of the players is paramount and it was only a pre-season friendly after all. The players just want a work-out, not to risk injury."
Rams manager John Gregory was in no doubt that the game had to be ended early.
"The referee had no option," said Gregory. "The ball was holding up in the standing water and players could have been hurt.
"We were looking to give some of the players a full 90 minutes but it was not to be and now we look forward to tonight's game at Chesterfield."
The Rams face the Spireites in the Derbyshire FA Centenary Cup at Saltergate (7.45pm).
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